Once again, Anthony Davis trade rumors are dominating the NBA landscape and the Los Angeles Lakers are right in the thick of things.
Davis attempted to force a trade to Los Angeles at the Feb. 7 deadline but the New Orleans Pelicans weren’t ready to make a deal, ultimately declining the team’s massive offer of the entire young core, draft picks, and salary cap relief.
Those very public negotiations ultimately fractured the team’s chemistry and played a role in the Lakers missing the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
However, with former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and former general manager Dell Demps no longer in charge of their respective franchises, there is some hope that general manager Rob Pelinka and executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin can find common ground and strike a deal.
A recent report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski explains that Griffin is looking for a package that includes an All-Star player, a young player with All-Star potential, and draft picks. The Lakers are lacking the All-Star player that the Pelicans covet, fueling rumors that any deal for Davis would have to include another team that would be willing to take on young assets in exchange for an All-Star player that could be shipped to the Pelicans.
With those parameters in mind, here are three possible trades that could get the Pelicans what they want and deliver Davis to the Lakers:
The Beal Deal
Pelicans: Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma, No. 4 pick (via Lakers)
Lakers: Anthony Davis
Wizards: Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, 2020 first round draft pick (via Lakers)
With the Washington Wizards in a state of flux and hamstrung by the nightmarish contract of John Wall, it may be time to tear things down and look to rebuild. An argument can be made that they should just hang on to Beal — who at 25 years old could still be a foundation piece for their team even if it takes them years to get back on track.
With this trade, the Wizards cash in on Beal by bringing in two young, talented players in Ball and Hart while also snagging a first round draft pick.
Meanwhile, the Pelicans, don’t land either of Ball or Brandon Ingram, who are considered to be the most valuable of the young Lakers. However, acquiring a bonafide young All-Star player like Beal may be enough for them to allow the Lakers to sub in Kuzma who has plenty of value of his own, particularly on his extremely team-friendly contract.
For the Lakers, the appeal here is obvious as they manage to keep Ingram at the expense of most of their other future assets. This would allow them to build a team around James, Davis, and Ingram while keeping them in striking distance for a max-level free agent.
The Wizards and Pelicans would both likely protest and demand that Ingram is added to their haul, but that would then push the deal past what the Lakers should be willing to pay. Perhaps a few minor assets — like second round draft picks or cash considerations — could be added to grease the wheels, but the framework is there.
Spurs Saddle Up
Pelicans: DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, No. 4 pick (via Lakers), No. 19 pick (via Spurs)
Lakers: Anthony Davis
Spurs: Brandon Ingram, E’Twaun Moore
There have been rumors of the San Antonio Spurs being willing to move DeRozan in a deal that would free up some salary cap room, which they would accomplish in this deal plus add a young piece in Ingram and shooter in Moore.
The Pelicans would get the win-now All-Star player they want to put alongside Jrue Holiday in DeRozan, though he is only under contract for one season before he can test the waters of 2020 free agency when he has a player option. Turning 30 years old this summer, DeRozan isn’t the ideal fit, but the Pelicans also receive a talented young player in Ball while also acquiring two first round draft picks in the 2019 NBA Draft.
For the Lakers, parting with their three best assets — Ball, Ingram, and their pick — wouldn’t be an ideal way to land Davis, but they do manage to hang onto Kuzma and Hart here while also only sacrificing one first round draft pick, which could become important as the team tries to build around the combo of LeBron James and Davis.
Of course, the Spurs are extremely unlikely to do a deal that sends Davis to the Lakers even if it does land them a young piece as talented as Ingram, so the chances of this one happening are slim.
Grizzlies Part Ways With Mike Conley
Pelicans: Mike Conley, Brandon Ingram, No. 4 pick (via Lakers)
Lakers: Anthony Davis
Grizzlies: Lonzo Ball, Solomon Hill, Moritz Wagner
In this scenario, the Memphis Grizzlies decide to start the Ja Morant era by trading away Conley. They land Ball in the deal — who may seem superfluous with Morant in Memphis — but he has the potential to play in a two-guard backcourt. Despite taking on the hefty salary of Hill, the Grizzlies still clear salary in this deal.
For the Pelicans, Conley may not officially have an All-Star appearance on his resume but he is widely considered to be All-Star caliber. He and Holiday would form one of the better defensive backcourts in the league while a combination of Ingram and the No. 4 pick would give New Orleans some promising young talent to join Williamson.
Once again, the Lakers pay a hefty price to get Davis but if the Pelicans want an All-Star caliber player in the deal, that’s not going to come cheap.